Supporters rally around school choice

Students from Ascension School, above, prayed before Communion at the Catholic Schools Week Mass at St. Albert the Great Church Jan. 29. Students from Holy Family School in Newport, Ky., below, lead a dance at the School Choice Rally at the Kentucky State Capitol Jan. 24. (Record Photos by Jessica Able)

By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Despite frigid temperatures Jan. 24, several hundred students, educators and parents gathered on the lawn at the back of the Capitol to voice support for “school choice” legislation.

Proponents support an effort to give individuals and businesses tax credits when they make donations to certain scholarship-granting organizations, such as the Catholic Education Foundation. In the past, such measures have had bipartisan support. A bill to accomplish this has not yet been filed.

Speaking at the rally, Sen. Ralph Alvarado of Winchester, Ky., said the legislation would provide tuition assistance to low- and middle-income students and some students with disabilities who wish to attend a non-public school.

“There are many great public schools, but not every school can meet the needs of every family,” said Alvarado, who has previously sponsored scholarship tax credit legislation.

Alvarado noted that wealthy parents have the means to send their children to the private school of their choice or to move to a better school district if they choose.

“But for Kentucky’s middle and low-income families who lack the means to

move or go to a non-public school, choice in education is often not an option,” said Alvarado, who was named by Gov. Matt Bevin as his running mate for the 2019 gubernatorial race.

Joining Alvarado on the rally stage was Rep. John “Bam” Carney of Campbellsville, Ky., Floor Majority Leader in the House of Representatives. He told rally-goers that “school choice” isn’t meant to compete with traditional public schools and private schools.

“This is about what’s best for Kentucky families, Kentucky’s children. That’s all this is about,” said Carney, a former public school teacher who has previously sponsored scholarship tax credit legislation in the House.

Scholarship tax credit legislation is expected to be filed when lawmakers reconvene on Feb. 5.

Lisa Finley, a third-grade teacher at St. Raphael School, said she saw the rally as a learning opportunity for herself and students.

“It’s important for St. Raphael kids to understand the gift of Catholic education they’ve been given and to advocate for other students,” she said.

Alexis Willis, a St. Raphael eighth-grader, said all students deserve to attend the school that best suits them “no matter how much money you have.”

Fellow eighth-grader Ellie Meyer agreed and said “I think it’s unfair students have to go to a certain school just because of where they live even if it doesn’t fit their needs.”

St. Raphael was one of two schools from the Archdiocese of Louisville present at the rally. Nativity Academy at St. Boniface also attended.

The Catholic Conference of Kentucky, which represents the state’s four bishops in matter of public policy, urges Catholics to call their legislators in support of scholarship tax credit legislation at 800-372-7181. The operator can help callers identify their senators or representatives.

Hundreds of parents, students and educators, including those from the Archdiocese of Louisville, gathered Jan. 24 on the back lawn of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort. The rally was held in support of school choice. Those gathered support legislation that would create scholarship tax credits.

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